“First, do no harm”

27th September 2023

Every person I’ve ever met thinks there’s too much communication in their company.

Too many emails, meetings, updates, FYIs, and so on.

If you think like this – and everyone else does! – that means that, if you could remove some of these communications, it’d transform your life, energy and happiness.

But the problem with you suggesting to someone that you remove some communications is that they can always justify why they’re there – “I know our weekly Update Meeting is tedious. But we do need to know what each other is doing. And it’s good to check-in with each other.

So, instead of asking the positively-worded question “Can you justify this communication?”…

… replace this by asking the negatively-worded “Would it do any harm, if we removed it?

This then works as follows:

  • For every communication you do…
  • …ask yourself “Would it do any harm, if we removed this?
  • If it wouldn’t do any harm, stop doing it. After all, no harm done
  • But if it might do some harm (for example, we won’t know what each other is doing), ask yourself…
  • …”Is there another way we can achieve this outcome – but without doing this communication?”
  • For example, if the harm is “We won’t know what each other is doing”, you could replace a weekly, one-hour Update Meeting, with a few short check-ins. That way, you (1) remove the tedious communication and (2) have done no harm, because you found another way to achieve the benefit of having it
  • And then, even if you decide that you do need the communication, and there is no other way to achieve the outcome you get from it, ask yourself “Could we make this communication shorter?
  • In my experience, with careful planning, it’s often easy to reduce a communication’s duration by 30%-50%. Imagine if you could do that with all yours!

So, the above list was the detail. In summary, it’s basically asking three questions:

  1. Would it do any harm, if we removed this?
  2. If it might, ask ”Is there another way we can achieve this outcome but without doing this communication?
  3. But if we do need it, we can still ask “Yes, but could we make it shorter?

I know you have too much communication at work.

Everybody has.

But remove the stuff that doesn’t add any value.

You might as well – it won’t do you any harm.

Action Point

For every communication, ask the three questions above. You’ll find you can quickly remove/reduce a surprising amount of pointless, useless, tedious stuff.

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